Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons I Love Fairy Tale Retellings

For That Artsy Reader Girls Top Ten Tuesday:

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May 19: Reasons Why I Love [insert your favorite book title, genre, author, etc. here]

I decided to go with what I know and what I write. Fairy tales!

a1bbvb76hsl._ac_uy218_1. They can be scary: Example: The Changeling by Victor La Valle made the familiar and beloved things seem alien and menacing.

a13yyhpaeml._ac_uy218_2.  They can be intricate: Example: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth is a Rapunzel retelling that weaves together three narrative strands, like a braid.

81-bxm7f5dl._ac_ul320_3. They can create new worlds: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier launches Marillier’s Sevenwaters series. It’s a six book series set partially in Ancient Ireland as well as an Otherworld based on Celtic mythology. These should be read in order. Following Daughter of the Forest, there’s Son of the Shadows and Child of the Prophecy. Then the second trilogy that makes up the series is Heir to Sevenwaters, Seer of Sevenwaters, and Flame of Sevenwaters.

51spwrt1xrl-_ac_us218_4. They can give us new looks at old worlds: Example Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series is set in an alternate version of the history we know, similar to what we know in many ways with a bit of extra magic thrown in. These don’t need to be read in any order, but I recommend the early books in the series, which are much better than the later ones. My favorites are The Fire Rose, The Serpent’s Shadow, The Gates of Sleep, and Phoenix and Ashes. 

41oyve54sgl-_ac_us218_5. They can be romantic: Example I found Juliet Marillier’s Beauty and the Beast retelling Heart’s Blood to be beautifully romantic in addition to having great historical and fantasy elements.

71oqghfkyhl._ac_uy218_6. They can be funny: Example Sarah Pineborough’s Tales From the Kingdoms (Poison, Charm, Beauty) trilogy made me chuckle at several points. They probably work better if they’re read in order, but you can probably still understand everything that’s happening even if you don’t.

51u1puwi8ol._ac_uy218_7.  They can be tearjerking and heartbreaking: Example: Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan is a beautifully written but harrowing tale (trigger warnings here)  with an ending that is ultimately bittersweet but in the moment may seem more bitter to some readers. Not all stories have happily ever afters, and even in the ones that do, those happy endings don’t apply to all.

a1klhsokiol._ac_uy218_8. They can be innovative: Example: I first discovered Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber in a college class I took called “Innovative Contemporary Fiction.” I’m glad I read this for the first time in an academic setting because it gave me a chance to really dig into the text and notice things I would have otherwise missed. There’s a lot happening between the lines of these stories!

81hs1pgkzml._ac_uy218_9. They can be beautiful: Example I found Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy to be beautiful in terms of story, setting, and prose.  It satisfied on almost every level. These should be read in order. It’s The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl In the Tower, andThe Winter of the Witch.

91jxemsjivl._ac_uy218_10. They’re what I do: Example: Once again it seems I’m not above promoting my own book. My first novel, Beautiful: A Tale of Beauties and Beasts is a Beauty and the Beast retelling. It’s my first published novel. I’m working on a follow up right now, that’s based on The Snow Queen.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books Read in 2018

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For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday: 

January 1: Best Books I Read In 2018

Happy New Year to all! Let’s kick off this year with a look at some of the great books I read last year.

  1. 41yjnrznaol-_ac_us218_Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo– This novel of tradition coming into conflict with modern values surprised me several times.  Yejide and Akin are a young Nigerian couple. They don’t have any kids yet but aren’t really worried, until immense pressure from their families causes Akin to take a second wife, despite the couple’s desire to avoid polygamy. In response, Yejide decides to do anything it takes to get pregnant. Both Yejide and Akin make tremendous sacrifices for the sake of family.  Both want to do the right thing, but each sacrifice has lasting consequences. Set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing culture and world, this story broke my heart.

2.61ciiq0YV9L._AC_US218_ Idaho by Emily Ruskovich– Years ago, Wade’s first wife, Jenny murdered their younger daughter, while their older one ran away. Now Jenny is spending the rest of her life in prison. Wade has married Ann, and is starting to lose his memory. Ann suspects that there may be more to the incident that destroyed Wade’s family than he lets on, but how will she ever know? This book unfolds from multiple points of view over the course of about thirty years. The mosaic of voices eventually comes together to suggest the truth, but that remains unsaid and ambiguous. I appreciated the craft (gorgeous prose) and the ambiguity, but I can see where some might not like it.

3. 41Q9fVyDjRL._AC_US218_ All New People by Anne Lamott– Nanny Goodman enters adolescence as America enters the 1960’s. Her father is a writer and her mother is an endless source of material. As Nanny comes of age, she sees a culture mirror her as it descends into drugs. There is a mass exodus of fathers from her town. Real estate and technological development change the landscape of the small California town where she lives. An adult Nan narrates she childhood memories with humor and emotional complexity.

4. 41Krb0iOt7L._AC_US218_The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell- Elsie thought she’d found her happily ever after when she married the wealthy Rupert Bainbridge. But when Rupert dies only a few weeks into their marriage, Elsie is stuck with Rupert’s cousin amidst resentful servants and hostile villagers. When Rupert’s cousin, Sarah,  discovers a carved figure that looks a lot like Elsie, as well as a diary, Elsie doesn’t think much of it. But when the figure’s eyes begin to follow Elsie, she starts getting nervous… This eerie, atmospheric Victorian Gothic ghost story, is wonderful tribute to the likes of Shirley Jackson and Daphne DuMaurier.

5. 51uyvcmgxil-_ac_us218_Commonwealth by Ann Patchett– When Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party and kisses her mother, he sets in motion a chain of events that breaks apart both their marriages and joins two families. Spending the summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children form a bond that is later tested when a tragedy sends shockwaves through both families. The story takes place before and after the tragedy, over the course of fifty years. We do eventually learn what , happened that changed everything (yet again) for these families, but before we do, we learn what led up to it, and what the consequences were.

6. 51W3InymdaL._AC_US218_Tangerine by Christine Mangan– I was surprised to see that  this book has a lot of negative reviews on Amazon and goodreads. I think the reason for that is that none of the characters are very likable. But if you’re OK with that, I found this atmospheric, noirish whodunnit to be a lot of fun. A British ex-pat is living in Tangier with her husband in the 1950s. When her former college roommate turns up at her door one day, memories of the past (including a violent death) begin to emerge. It turns out that both ladies have things they want to hide, and that the beautiful city of Tangier might be an exotic ground against which their struggle plays out. I think that this would appeal to fans of Patricia Highsmith.

7. 51wn17e1xil-_ac_us218_Nuclear Family by Susanna Fogel– Over the course of three decades we read letters to a heroine who we never meet directly. These letters come from her family: her father is a narcissistic former child prodigy. He has divorced her mother and married a traditional Chinese woman. They have a son who wears suits to bed. Her mother is a therapist who never remarried, but may be in love with her Rabbi and overshares on a regular basis. Her sister may have given up on college in order to own guns and land in Arizona. We read letters from all of these characters to our heroine, Julie. We read thank you notes, condolences, family gossip and more. Also included are gems like “The Gerbil You Drowned in 1990 Would Like a Word With You”, “Your Uncle Figured a Mass E-mail Was the Best Way to Discuss His Sexuality” and “Your Intrauterine Device Has Some Thoughts on Your Love Life.” It made me snort with laughter at several points.

8. 518ejevmohl-_ac_us218_The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn– Anna Fox is a child psychologist who suffers from Agoraphobia so debilitating that she can’t leave her Harlem townhouse. She spends her days watching old movies, interacting with people online, and spying on her neighbors (just a little!). When she sees a crime take place in a house facing hers, she calls the police. But her copious consumption of alcohol and prescription drugs means that she’s not the best witness. Anna’s fondness for old film noirs permeates this book and makes it feel like an homage. I definitely recommend this to Hitchcock fans!

51njfgrvqcl-_ac_us218_9. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden– This is the first book in Arden’s Winternight trilogy and it definitely has me interested in reading more in 2019. Vasilisa lives in the Russian wilderness with her family. When her mother dies, her father brings a new wife from Moscow. Vasilisa’s stepmother is a religious woman who forbids the family from honoring the traditional household spirits. Vasilisa fears the potential consequences of these actions as misfortune comes to the village. We see several conflicts play out in this book. Traditional religion plays out against Christianity (which was still somewhat new at the time this book was set). Vasilisa also comes into conflict with her stepmother. But really I see the primary conflict in this books as the independent, strong minded Vasilisa coming facing the limited roles that her her world offers for women. 61ftpdsyagl-_ac_us218_

10. The Changeling by Victor LaValle– When Apollo and his wife Emma have a baby boy, they’re thrilled. But soon, like many new parents, they’re exhausted and stressed. When Emma starts behaving odd, Apollo worries it’s Post Partum Depression and encourages her to see the doctor. But before that can happen, Emma commits a horrific act and then vanishes. Apollo must venture into a city that he only thought he knew, to find a forgotten island, a graveyard full of secrets and a forest full of legends. It’s only by working alongside a mysterious stranger whom he may not be able to trust, that Apollo can hope to regain what he thinks may be lost forever.

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween/Creepy Freebie

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

October 30: Halloween/Creepy Freebie

This week I’m just sharing some lesser know stories to give you the creeps this Halloween.

51mrrhc1ol-_ac_ul436_11. Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp- Louisa Armory is nineteen and she’s stuck watching her twelve year old niece, Jane at Jane’s grandmother’s house over the summer. But when Jane becomes obsessed with Emily, a girl who lived in the house years earlier, and died before her thirteenth birthday, Louisa grows concerned.  Jane is talking about her as if she still exists, and even begins to act like her (cruel and selfish), and Louisa finds herself battling with a bitter, malevolent,  spirit to save her niece. I read this as a child and it scared me a lot. I read it again years later, and while it didn’t have the same menace it was still a nice psychological chiller.

51gpogblafl-_ac_ul436_2. Ring by Koji Suzuki– Many people are familiar with the film adaptation of this novel about a videotape that kills viewers seven days after they watch it.  The premise is very similar to the film but the execution is different in several ways. Interestingly the book seems to be asking what would happen if the technology on which we are increasingly dependent was hijacked by something malevolent that was intent on getting to as many people/victims as possible. The book, written in 1990, couldn’t have anticipated a form of technology that could be spread the way a digital video can, but when you think about that, the implications become even more frightening. Another interesting element that is absent from the film is the Japanese cultural attitude toward women, which plays a role in the tape’s origin story as well as the action of the novel itself.

81pojvpt08l-_ac_ul436_3. The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell– Elsie marries Rupert Bainbridge, a wealthy heir, and believes that she’s destined for a happily ever after. But when she’s widowed just weeks after the wedding she finds herself living with her husband’s cousin, Sarah, amid disdainful servants and hostile villagers. When Elsie discovers a painted wooden figure in a looked room in her house she doesn’t think much of it. When Sarah discovers an ancestor’s diary, she and Elsie learn more about the history of their home and the origin of the wooden figure. Then more and more figures begin to appear. The book was published in 2017 but does an excellent job recalling Victorian ghost stories. I would recommend it to fans of Daphne DuMaurier, Shirley Jackson, and Susan Hill.

91nzafowepl-_ac_ul436_4. The Girl in A Swing by Richard Adams– Alan is a pretty boring fellow. He falls in love with Kathe, a beautiful stenographer who is sent to assist him on a business trip to Denmark. To Alan’s surprise, Kathe appears to return his feelings.  They get married after a whirlwind courtship, but the reader has the sense that something isn’t right about Kathe. She has a secret that puts her and Alan’s happiness (and possibly their sanity) at risk. Her secret isn’t explicitly told to the reader, much most readers will guess based on the clues that come from her fears and the visions that Alan has.  The supernatural elements of the book are also ambiguous. You can read it as a tale of the supernatural or you can read it as a story of horror that is all too possible.

41-kxlbhnl-_ac_us218_5. The Other by Thomas Tryon– Niles and Holland Perry are thirteen year old identical twins living in a small New England town. Their father recently died in an accident and Mrs. Perry is still buried in her grief and stays in her room, leaving the boys to run wild for most of the summer.  But Holland’s childish pranks grow more sinister as the summer progresses. One twist in the story is somewhat predictable, but that’s just a single piece of the puzzle. For some reason, Amazon lists this as “Vampire Horror” which makes no sense to me because there are no vampires in this.

41fzolyra1l-_ac_us218_6. The Ruins by Scott Smith– Jeff, Amy, Eric, and Stacy are four American friends on vacation in Cancun. When they meet Mathias, a German tourist, they agree to help him find his brother Heinrich, who was last seen heading to check out some ruins with his new girlfriend. They follow in Heinrich’s footsteps to the ruins, ignoring and misinterpreting signs that they’re headed for danger. When they find the themselves stranded on a Mayan ruins facing an ancient evil, they learn that the true danger may lie within their group.

515upl9wobl-_ac_us218_7. The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons-Colquitt and Walter Kennedy are a happy couple in an Atalanta suburb. When the vacant lot next door, that they had thought would remain undeveloped turns into a construction site, they’re disappointed in the  loss of their privacy. But when  people move into the house and face tragedy after tragedy, Walter and Colquitt realize that something is horribly wrong. The house is brand new. Surely it can’t be haunted! But it seems to destroy everyone who lives there, and the destruction isn’t confined to the house…

61r5owovtul-_ac_us218_8. Ghost Story by Peter Straub– In a small town in upstate New York, four old men meet up to tell ghost stories. When one of their group dies, the remaining men begin to suffer nightmares, and the stories they tell become more and more terrifying. As things get worse, they realize that a secret that they’ve kept for half a century is coming back to haunt them. This is a really entertaining supernatural revenge story, but it is a slow burn, so give it time to unfold.

51blghuph3l-_ac_us218_9. Down A Dark Hall by Lois Duncan– When Kit Gordy’s mother remarries, she decides to take an extended European honeymoon, meaning that Kit must enroll at the Blackwood Academy, a boarding school for young girls.  When she first arrives, Kit realizes that some thing is wrong. Only four girls have been accepted as students this term. Kit begins to dream about playing the piano, only to wake up with her hands and fingers sore. Her attempts to call/write to people outside of Blackwood always turn out unsuccessful. When Kit discovers the tragic fate of some of Blackwood’s previous students, she realizes that she and her classmates are in constant danger.  Apparently this had a film adaptation earlier this year, but I haven’t seen it yet.

61ftpdsyagl-_ac_us218_The Changling by Victor LaValle– Apollo and his wife Emma have just had a beautiful baby boy. Despite the fact that they both adore their new son, they soon find themselves anxious and exhausted. So when Emma starts acting strangely, Apollo figures it’s Post Partum Depression and he encourages her to see her doctor. However, he’s totally unprepared for Emma’s next, horrific action, or her disappearance following it. Reeling from the ruins of his life, Apollo begins a dark journey through a world he thought he knew. A mysterious stranger may hold the key to getting him answers, if Apollo can accept that  the city he’s lived in his whole life, the wife he’s always loved, and even the child he adores, are are strangers to him.